In fact it feels blasphemous to read the book but my curiosity got the better of me and here I am: I read it and I am attempting to write a review about it.
In this version of the life of Jesus, he has a twin brother called “Christ”. Jesus performed all miracles mentioned in the bible and Christ stayed in the background and implied that he will improve the story further when he gets the chance. His interest was to establish the Church, so that the message would not die and the ultimate sacrifice would ensure that the story resonates and live through generations to come.
Christ was also visited by a stranger without a name who prodded him and insinuated act of betrayals that Christ wouldn’t otherwise have thought about it himself.
Besides appearing in both Gold and White background and Gold and Black background covers (the one I read was white), at the back cover it says ‘THIS IS A STORY’, sort of a disclaimer to ward off potential hate mails and death threats (which he already got loads of them). It is meant to say, if you treat it anything else other than a story, you are confusing the genre i.e. fictional novel and religious text.
I think I was all right up to the point when the book make a mockery of the resurrection. That’s where I thought, “Whoa, this went a little bit too far.”
The writing has traces of old English and a biblical feel to it, especially when Jesus preached. I haven’t read any of “His Dark Material” book nor am I interested to but this book was an easy read.
Christ was opposite of what passionate Jesus is, I like this passage about living by every rule:
‘There are some who live by every rule and cling tightly to their rectitude because they fear being swept away by a tempest of passion, and there are others who cling to the rules because they fear that there is no passion there at all, and if that if they let go they would simply remain where they are, foolish and unmoved; and they could bear that least of all. Living a life of iron control lets them pretend to themselves that only by the mightiest effort of will can they hold great passions at bay. I am one of those. I know it, and I can do nothing about it.”
In Philip Pullman’s spin, he threw a fresh light on who Jesus was and asks the questions about the validity of the stories in New Testament. In an article appeared in Telegraph before the book is published, he said: ”By the time the gospels were being written, Paul had already begun to transform the story of Jesus into something altogether new and extraordinary, and some of his version influenced what the gospel writers put in theirs.
”Paul was a literary and imaginative genius of the first order who has probably had more influence on the history of the world than any other human being, Jesus certainly included. I believe this is a pity.” Pullman told The Times newspaper that the idea of Jesus being the son of God came from Paul’s ”fervid imagination”.
He went on: ”The story I tell comes out of the tension within the dual nature of Jesus Christ, but what I do with it is my responsibility alone. Parts of it read like a novel, parts like a history, and parts like a fairy tale; I wanted it to be like that because it is, among other things, a story about how stories become stories.”
Whether this is read like a myth or a story, I’m afraid it is a subject that is controversial and one that people may find offensive. Whether I appreciate this book challenge me, validates my doubt or make me uncomfortable, the conclusion is: it is quite an unusual reading experience.
To read a review by a reverend and former bishop with regards to this book, see Vulpes Libris.
Other reivew: Graham@my book year
I am reading this for Myth Challenge.
Hardback. Publisher: Canongate 2010; Length: 245 pages; Setting: The era of Jesus. Source: Reading Library. Finished reading on: 29th July 2011.
About the writer:
Philip Pullman was born in Norwich, England in 1946 and grew up in Zimbabwe and Wales. He worked as a teacher for many years and his first children’s novel, Count Karlstein, came out in 1982. The Ruby in the Smoke, the first of the Sally Lockhart quartet of Victorian thrillers, was published in 1985. He has won many awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children’s Book Award, the Smarties Prize, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and a CBE. His acclaimed trilogy, His Dark Materials, has been published in 39 languages, and was the subject of a hugely successful adaptation at the National Theatre in 2003-4 and 2004-5. Once Upon a Time in the North was published in April 2008. Philip Pullman lives in Oxford with his wife, and has two sons.